Legislature Passes Skinner’s SB 607 to Keep Kids in School

August 31, 2018

Sacramento, CA — Today the California Legislature passed Senator Nancy Skinner’s (D-Berkeley) SB 607, the “Keep Kids in School Act,” which would curtail the harmful practice of suspending students for low-level misbehavior. Skinner’s bill now awaits Governor Brown’s signature.
“Kicking students out of school does nothing to address underlying problems and ultimately makes it more likely they will drop out,” said Senator Skinner. “SB 607 puts the needs of kids first.”

Willful defiance suspensions have been used against students whose offenses were as minor as refusing to remove a hat or failing to do their school work. Rather than helping students understand and correct poor behavior, willful defiance suspensions simply kick students out of school. Such suspensions disproportionately impact students of color, LGBTIQ students, and students living with disabilities. SB 607 seeks to address these disparities and the negative impacts that suspensions have on students’ academic performance and likelihood of graduating.

Five California school districts have adopted policies to fully eliminate willful defiance suspensions, including Oakland Unified in Senator Skinner’s District, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pasadena, and Azusa. In 2013, the Legislature passed AB 420, which prohibited such suspensions statewide for grades K through 3 effective through July 1st, 2018. With these limits in place, the California Department of Education reported a 46 percent drop in suspensions and a 42 percent drop in expulsions statewide in the years 2011 to 2016.

SB 607 builds on this success, permanently eliminating willful defiance suspensions for grades K through 5. The bill also includes a ban on such suspensions for grades 6 through 8 effective through July 1st, 2023. California has recently allocated resources to school districts to develop alternatives to traditional school discipline practices. And under SB 607, teachers would still be able to remove students from the classroom if they are disruptive.

“Getting kicked out of school even for just a few days leaves many students having to fend for themselves,” said Skinner. “Ending willful defiance suspensions will keep kids in school where teachers and counselors can help them thrive.”

Senator Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) represents the 9th Senate District. She serves as Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary.